Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Vegan Friendsgiving!

I hope you had an awesome vegan Thanksgiving! I'll share an update from my family Thanksgiving tomorrow, but tonight, I wanted to share pics from our annual Vegan Friendsgiving potluck, which was held the Sunday before the holiday. This annual potluck is hosted by my friends Vaughan and Nicole, and we've been doing it for years. But like everything else on the planet, the event took a took a two-year pandemic break. So this was our first year back in awhile!

I failed to take any people photos, except this one of folks filling their plates. 

But I have lots of images of food. We'll start with my plate, which was packed full. I had a half-marathon race the next morning, and I try to eat super-healthy the night before any race. But hey, it was a holiday! Not that this food isn't healthy. It's just that casseroles and such tend to be rich, and I ate a lot.

The race went fine, by the way. Not a PR but not a bad time. Anyway, here is a rundown of some of the dishes. People were arriving all night, so more food came in, including a vegan roast and vegan ham, that I failed to photograph. But I did get one of James and Clarita's Vegan Beefy Wellington, which was very roast-like. The inside of the puff pastry was stuffed with a loaf made with beefy crumbles.

One lady brought the BEST Indian food! So good! In the back of the second pic below, you can also see Steven's tasty Raw Vegan Alfredo Noodles.

I made my Corn Casserole from Cookin' Crunk — a simple recipe from my granny that has vegan cream cheese, pimento peppers, diced green chiles, and corn.

Diane brought this tasty Irish Portabella Oat Stuffing. It was like a baked savory oat casserole with a stuffing-like flavor.

There were Roasted, Mixed Veggies with cashew cheese and Roasted Brussels.

And as a starter, we samples some Violife Vegan Cheeses with wine. 

And of course, there were desserts! I didn't get a photo of Amy's amazing chocolate PB pie before it was gone, but I did snap some pics of Autumn's Mini Apple Pies and Megan's Caramel Apple Cake.

So good! There was so much food that arrived late that I could have made an entire second plate full of new things. But I was stuffed, so I didn't. I'm so glad potlucks with friends are back!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Northwest Arkansas Trip, Day 3

It's me, hi! I'm the problem, it's me! Ha. Again, I've failed to blog over a vacation week. I intended to post my final recap of my Northwest Arkansas trip on Wednesday, but I was off work for Thanksgiving. And my mind was miles away from a computer. So without further ado, here ya go. 

On Sunday, I planned to drive back to Memphis from my weekend stay with my friend Misti in Fayetteville, Arkansas. But first, brunch! Oh actually, but first, Vegan Pumpkin Bread. 

I knew it would take us a while to get dressed and moving for brunch, and I knew I'd wake up hungry. As I always do. So I picked up a slice of this vegan bread at Arsaga's Coffee the day before to save for a Sunday morning treat. Misti's cat Tiger wanted a bite.

Once we were finally moving — around noon — we headed for The Farmer's Table, a vegan-friendly brunch spot. There was an hour wait, but that was okay. We got coffee and sat outside as we waited for a table. Misti's friend Whitney met us there, and once seated, we ordered a round of cocktails. I went with a basic mimosa since I had to drive home, and I knew one mimosa wouldn't affect me.

For my meal, I ordered the Mushroom Mash, which had a base of roasted potatoes topped with kale, quinoa, carrots, cashew cheese, and homemade mushroom-rice sausage. It was a nice healthy meal after a weekend of indulgence. 

And that was it! After our leisurely meal, I made the five-hour drive home. What a fun trip! Okay, I'll be back with some Thanksgiving recaps this week. I'd say tomorrow, but with my current record, I don't want to make any promises.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Northwest Arkansas Trip, Day 2

I spent the weekend before last visiting my friend Misti in Northwest Arkansas! Yesterday, I blogged about my first night there (you can read that here). And tonight, I've got a recap of day two with running, brunch, a trip to Crystal Bridges Museum, cocktails in a church basement, and more. This is a big one!

I woke up on Saturday morning, earlier than Misti and her boyfriend Josh, and there was snow on the ground from the night before. My first snow of the season! I needed to get a run in, so I drove a few miles to Lake Fayetteville and ran six miles around the lake's paved loop.

When I got back to Misti's, they were STILL sleeping. So I woke them up for brunch! We went to Arsaga's Coffee Roasters, which had a number of vegan options. 

I started with an Oat Milk Latte.

And then switched to a Southwest Spritzer with sparkling wine and aperol. 

To eat, I went with a breakfast platter that had Tofu Scramble, Beyond Sausage, Home Fries, and Sourdough. I love that the bread came with both jam and avocado for maximum spreadage. This was a lot of food, and I ate it all. 

After brunch, we decided to check out Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, but to get there, we had to pass through Rogers, Arkansas. So that seemed like a good excuse to check out New Province Brewing Co. 

After a beer (and watching the Razorbacks get beat by LSU), we headed to Crystal Bridges. This is an amazing art museum founded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton. It may be tucked into a small town in Arkansas, but it features world-class artworks. I was blown away by this place! I took tons of pics, but I'll just share a few of my favorites here. I know you're here for the food and not art!

We spent a few hours there, and by then, we'd worked up an appetite, so we headed to Bentonville Taco & Tamale Co. There was an hour wait though, so we decided to grab pre-dinner drinks at nearby Scotch & Soda. I had a tasty tequila-sage cocktail.

When we finally got a table at the taco and tamale place, I couldn't wait to try their vegan cheese dip. But they were out. :-( Thankfully, they weren't out of their Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales, which were vegan.

I also got a Cucumber Tomato Salad on the side. The tamales were great! And the salad was a nice, cooling side (and probably the only real vegetables I had all day).

After dinner, we had one more stop before heading back to Misti's. We got a nightcap at The Undercroft, a bar in the basement of an old church.

The upper floors are now a restaurant called The Preacher's Son, but the basement was a busy, but cozy, cocktail bar. And I had my favorite drink of the trip — a pickle-tini with a garlicky brine. Yum!

Okay, I'll be back tomorrow with my final day recap!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Northwest Arkansas Trip, Day 1

Hey there! As promised, I'm back with some vacation pics. I spent the weekend before last visiting my long-time friend Misti in Northwest Arkansas, about five hours from my home in Memphis. She lives in Fayetteville, but we also spent time in Bentonville and Rogers, so I'm calling this my Northwest Arkansas trip. I left mid-morning on Friday, and right around noon, I spotted a Burger King sign on the highway. So lunch was an Impossible Whopper — my favorite road trip tradition.

I arrived close to 4 p.m., just in time for a beer. I dumped my stuff in Misti's guest room, and we headed to Fossil Cove Brewing Co., my favorite brewery of the trip! The aesthetic there was just so fun. Lots of dinosaurs and bright colors.

Misti's boyfriend Josh showed up when he got off work. 

And Misti and I split a Vegan Veggie Pizza while we were there. I didn't even realize they had vegan pizza until we sat down and I spied a menu for the adjoining pizza cart. But it was dinner time, and I was hungry. And this was some very good pizza. 

After dinner, we headed for another brewery — White Mountain Brewing Co. in Downtown Fayetteville. I had a nice blood orange IPA there.

And then our last stop of the night was Maxine's, a cute cocktail bar. There was an Arkansas Razorbacks/LSU game that weekend, and the bar was slammed. But we managed to grab a table and a drink. I got a paloma — grapefruit, tequila, salt rim. 

It had gotten considerably colder throughout the evening, and when we left the bar, it was SNOWING! Y'all, it doesn't snow much in Memphis. And when it does, it's typically January or February. Things are a little different in the Ozarks, but snow in November is unusual even there!

I'll be back tomorrow with a day 2 recap!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Product Review: Nutpods Creamer Collections

Hi, friends! Sorry for the long absence again. I went on yet another vacation (two in a month!), and I've been getting caught up all week. I have lots of fun vacation photos from my trip to Northwest Arkansas, but I'll save those for next week's posts. Tonight, I wanted to share a review post that I've been meaning to post for a few weeks now! 

I've expressed my love for Nutpods creamer on this blog several times. But in case you missed it, I love Nutpods! I cut down on sugar at the start of 2022 after reading The Alzheimer's Solution. The doctors who wrote that book suggest that any amount of sugar is bad for brain health, but they say to at least stay under 25 grams a day. The easiest way for me to do that was to cut out sugar-sweetened creamers because most vegan creamers are loaded with sugar, especially when you use two to three times the serving size (like I do). 

Enter Nutpods. Most of their creamers are unsweetened, and others are sweetened with stevia. And the flavors are fun! Nutpods recently sent me two of their special edition collections to try. The Winter Collection is perfect for the season! 

It has Pumpkin Spice, Holiday Nog, and Peppermint Mocha. In these days leading up to Thanksgiving, I've been enjoying the Pumpkin Spice in my coffee every morning. 

I have a strict no PSL rule after Thanksgiving, so I figured I'd better use that one up! I haven't cracked open the nog or mocha creamers yet, but I tried both last holiday season, and I loved them. The Holiday Nog was my favorite though because I just love how nog tastes like Christmas. The Peppermint Mocha is delightfully chocolaty with the appropriate hint of peppermint (it's not overpowering).

One note: Pumpkin Spice appears to be sold out on the Nutpods website, so it looks like the only way to get it for now is through the Winter Collection (the collections are $14.95 and include three creamers). 

The other collection they sent was the Remi Cruz Collection, a collab with YouTube/food blog star Remi Cruz. I'm not going to lie. I had to Google Remi Cruz because I'd never heard of her (she's not vegan), but she apparently has a bajillion followers and is cool enough to get a special Nutpods collection, so go Remi!

These creamers are supposed to be her faves, and they're all flavors from Nutpods' standard lines: Classic Chocolate, Cookie Butter, and French Vanilla Oat Creamer).

Cookie Butter has long been my very favorite Nutpods creamer. It's one of the stevia-sweetened ones, and it legit tastes like a Biscoff cookie. Yes, please. The Classic Chocolate was a new-to-me flavor, and it was very good. It's unsweetened, so you get that dark chocolate flavor in its pure form. The French Vanilla Oat is also great! Most Nutpods creamers are almond- and coconut-based, but they have a great oat line that's very creamy. The oat creamers also froth pretty well if you want a fancy drink.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Kitchari, Bhel Puri, and a Vegan Wedding Feast

After a weekend with my friend Greg, who was visiting from Kentucky, I needed a detox. We ate so much vegan junk food and drank one two many beers and cocktails. So I made kitchari — the ultimate detox food. This was the Vegetable Kitchari from Plant-Based India, which had cabbage and carrots. Really good and wholesome. I had it with papadum and mixed pickle. I love Indian food so much!

Speaking of Indian food, I picked up a Bhel Puri kit at the local Indian market. It had the bhel puri mix and four individual packets of tamarind chutney. And then you just add fresh veggies. I used boiled potatoes, cucumber, and onion. I've been enjoying this as my morning snack all week.

I had some leftover tofu puffs from mine and Greg's fondue night (they make great fondue dippers), so I used them in a Tofu Puff Stir-fry with chard from my neighbors' garden. 

And finally, my friend Laura got married last weekend, and though she is not vegan, her wedding buffet was loaded with vegan options! I saw "vegan options" on the invite, but I assumed that meant maybe one dish. But no, I had veggie jambalaya, roasted okra and tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, and roasted potatoes with Brussels. So good!! I even went back for seconds. I had a half-marathon race the next morning, and this was a change from my usual pre-race pasta. So I was a little worried how that would affect my gut, but it was fine! And I PR'd the heck out of that race, so maybe I need to find a vegan-friendly wedding before every race.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Samhain Feast!

I celebrated Samhain (the spiritual side of Halloween) a few days after actual Halloween since my friend Greg was in town. The cross-quarter for Samhain was November 6, which was a Sunday, so that seemed perfect. I ordered a new Sabbats Almanac for 2023, which starts with Samhain (the witchy new year), and as always, it has seasonal recipes for the celebration.

But they're not all vegan (and most aren't even vegetarian). I enjoy finding ways to veganize them though! For this Samhain, they included a recipe for roasted chicken with herbs, so I made Roasted Seitan with parsley and thyme. I used the White Chicken Seitan recipe from Viva La Vegan that's become my go-to. The book also had recipes for Maple Glazed Carrots and Oven-Roasted Potatoes, so I veganized those, too.

The carrots had butter, so that was an easy switch. And the potatoes were supposed to be roasted in beef tallow, but the recipe suggested using vegetable oil for a plant-based version. I used olive oil for an even healthier swap. And you know what? These were the best dang oven potatoes I've ever made! They were boiled first and then very liberally coated in oil before roasting. I loved how they were very crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

For dessert, there was a recipe for Whiskey Bread Pudding, which sounded delicious! To make it vegan, I swapped the butter for margarine, and I used sweetened condensed coconut milk in place of the heavy cream and sugar. There are vegan heavy creams out there, but I had a can of that condensed coconut milk in the pantry that needed to be used. For the bread, I used my homemade sourdough, and it was soooo good. I have a tad bit of pudding left, and I'm excited about it.

As always, we set a place at the table for all of our dead friends and family for a Samhain Feast of the Dead. Paul participated, but he got ramen takeout because he basically only eats noodles these days. I also did a compost blessing for our compost bin!

Monday, November 7, 2022

Greg's Halloweekend Visit, Part Two

As I mentioned in my last post, my friend Greg was in town for Halloween, and we had a packed weekend with lots of food and holiday fun. You can see what we did Friday and Saturday in my last post. On Sunday morning, we had brunch plans at Imagine Vegan Cafe with a bunch of old vegan friends. It's been forever since I've had an actual sit-down, in-person brunch at Imagine (rather than just grabbing takeout), so of course I had to order my favorite meal, the Memphis Slam (biscuits, gravy, vegan cheese, sausage, and tofu scramble). I also always add kale to this to make it slightly more healthy. 

Here's the whole gang! Some of these people were part of the original Imagine Supper Club (a group of us that met every week at Imagine for dinner back in 2012ish). Imagine owner Kristie was in the kitchen, just like old times, so she came out to say hi.

On Sunday night, Paul, Greg, and I headed to Cedar Hill Farms in Hernando, Mississippi (about 30 minutes from Memphis) to do their Trail of Terror. They have the scariest trail haunt around! And there's a nice pumpkin patch, cafe, and general store. It's a cute place.

I took Monday off work so Greg and I could spend Halloween together before he headed back to Kentucky. For lunch, we grabbed some Beyond Orange Chicken from Panda Express and ate it at Elmwood Cemetery. Then we walked around to check out graves.

That evening, we donned witch hats and handed out candy to the few trick-or-treaters we had. 

And we brought back an old tradition that we used to do all the time — sushi and fondue night! We used to make both for just about every party we had (and we had lots of parties back in the day). This time, it was just us and Paul, but we made Veggie Sushi.

And Cashew Cheese Fondue with lots of dippers (bread, fried tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots). I was excited to use my witch hat dip holder that my me-maw gave me.

I also got to use the black cat punch bowl she gifted me, too. We made a Bourbon Apple Cider Punch with Jim Beam, sparkling apple cider, lemon, cinnamon, and pilsner beer. We enjoyed our snacks and drinks while watching the new Hellraiser on Hulu (a perfect end to a great Halloweekend!).